Write a Cover Letter

Let’s say you ready  my second post in my Management Monday series, and decided that you really need to find a new job.  Congratulations.  Now dust off that resume, get it up to date, and find some jobs to apply to.  However, before you hit that submit button or lick that envelope, I would like to strongly urge you to write a cover letter. Let me state that another way. Do not bother applying for a job if you don’t want to write a cover letter. If you don’t want to take the time to explain how your skills, life, and time on this Earth are applicable to the job you are applying for then why should I, the hiring manager, take the time to read through your resume to understand?  The cover letter is a gift bestowed upon you by the job seeking gods to give you a chance to wow your future manager for the first time.  It’s your chance to make an impression, show some personality, and make me want to read your resume. (Which had better be no more than two pages or one page front and back and ideally, I really only want to read one page. Again, if you can’t tell me what’s important in your life, why should I try to do that for you by parsing through 10 pages of detailed job history?  But I digress…)

Okay, I know this all sounds harsh, but really, a hiring manager can get hundreds of resumes for one position. It’s a lot of work to read through those resumes and if you don’t make it easy you are likely to get thrown in the reject pile. Maybe the job you are applying for doesn’t have a crazy lady like me who is nutso about cover letters. Right, so then you don’t need to write one, but how do you know? Unless the process expressly forbids writing a cover letter why would you skip the opportunity to showcase what’s amazing about you?

If I have convinced you that a cover letter is important, let me now impress upon you that what you put in your cover letter is also important.  Prove to me that you’ve read my position write up. I’ve spent hours on it, and it’s been reviewed by my boss and my boss’s boss. These are our words about what you are going to be doing in this job. Show us that you understand the job, that you can translate our description to your experience. If you are missing experience, use this as an opportunity to tell us why you’d love to grow in that area.

You want extra double bonus points? Go to Google. Search our website. See if you can figure out what we do. Find some recent press releases or news that you think might be applicable to the group you will be joining at this new company. Even if you guess wrong and talk about some other group’s work you’ll get points for trying, and it gives them a good reason to bring you in for an interview. They will want to correct you, and tell you what their group does and why it’s better or different than the group you mentioned.

This all requires work, and it feels risky, but I promise you that putting that little bit of extra work in is worth it if you really want the job.  Yes, I know if you are applying to ten jobs you have to do this ten times (and I really suggest you also tailor your resume ten times, but again, I digress) but think about it as your first chance to show off to your new employer.  When you work there you don’t want them to think of you as just another person, you want them to think you are special, right?  So make yourself special from the beginning.

One last thing. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, send a thank you note afterwards. Get someone’s contact information and send it electronically, or for extra bonus points, hand write thank yous to the interview team. The personal touches really make a difference.


I really like Don’t Send A Resume by Jeffrey J. Fox as a reference for finding for a new job.